SOME PROGRESS, FINALLY. The United States, after much pushing, has finally acceded to engaging in direct talks with Iran, on the condition that it abandon its nuclear enrichment activities. This is the necessary next step in the diplomatic dance, but marks a dramatic departure from the Bush administration's approach toward Iran over the past six years. With the world looking to Iran for a counter-offer, Iran will now either have to chose the engagement with the United States it says it wants or else be perceived as the intransigent party in this conflict.
THE GOOD NEWS. While I was on vacation yesterday, I don't think any of my colleagues noted the ongoing developments in the Haditha massacre story. This is one of those things that makes you appreciate the old-fashioned print news media which, for all its flaws, can bring things like this to light and leaves your humble blogger with relatively little to add.
According to press accounts, Mr. Paulson is an ardent believer in a strong dollar. Regardless of what you think of the budget deficit, the strong dollar IS the reason for the trade deficit.
This is not really a contestable point. No one opts to buy imported goods rather than domestically produced goods because of the budget deficit. They buy imported goods because the strong dollar makes them cheaper. It really is that simple.
IN DEFENSE OF INTERNSHIPS. I'm going to break with Garancehere -- Anya Kamenetz's op-ed didn't make much sense to me. Her basic point is simple: Internships are a $124 million subsidy to corporate America. Well, maybe. But first you have to figure out how many internships are actually in "corporate America." The American Prospect, The Nation, the AFL-CIO, the Center for American Progress, the ACLU, People for the American Way, and all the other usual suspects have robust intern programs which allow them to train and try out kids they can't necessarily hire.
THE NEW ANTI-UNION TRAINING GROUND: UNPAID INTERNSHIPS.Anya Kamenetz, author of Generation Debt: Why Now is a Terrible Time to be Young, today penned a brilliant op-ed for The New York Times arguing that, rather than focusing solely on the impact of illegal immigrants on wages and jobs, we ought to take a good, hard look at the potential wage and other distortions created by the rise of the unpaid internship as a major factor in American economic life, and to treat internships as the "$124 million yearly contribution to the welfare of corporate America" that they are.
ZINSMEISTER'S RACE-CONSCIOUS NATION.Greg over at Horse's Mouth notes another peculiar article by new White House domestic policy chief Karl Zinsmeister, this 1996 American Enterprise essay on the always uncontroversial subject of race. While making appropriate hemming and hawing sounds and adding lots of caveats to his assertions, Zinsmeister still manages to come off sounding, well, like the kind of fellow an administration that's already alienated African-Americans might not chose to lead its domestic programs if it wanted to improve those relations.
GOREWATCH. So far as all the speculation that Gore has released his fundraisers and is definitively out goes, color me unimpressed. To be clear, I don't think Gore will run -- I'd put the odds at 60:40 against. But the decision has nothing to do with his funders. As Rich Lowrynotes, Gore doesn't, in any case, have a serious network of longtime moneymen waiting for reactivation. Whatever cash-shoveling infrastructure he built in 2000 has long since atrophied, and much of it is probably solidly in Hillary's camp.
THAT EXPLAINS IT. If you're ever confused about the GOP's puzzling determination to eliminate the broadly supportable estate tax, this report showing that George Bush, Dick Cheney, and their cabinet will personally gain between $90 and $340 million dollars from the tax's repeal clarifies things considerably.
HOORAY FOR PRE-K. The vote on California's Proposition 82 -- the Rob Reiner-spearheaded initiative providing universal access to preschool for all Californians, paid for by an income tax hike on wealthy residents -- is coming up in a week. The odds are still in its favor for passage, though not overwhelmingly so.